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On When To Give Up....


During the #askagent session on Twitter last night, I mentioned my Prada & Prejudice story-- rewriting it after 20+ editor rejections, and getting two offers.

Someone asked me how to know when you should give up on a project. How many rejections is enough? When should you throw in the towel and just trunk it?

And here's my twitter-sized answer: When you have something better to shop. When your skill has grown beyond what you're shopping. Then you give up.


And that's what it boils down to, right? You shop the best damn book you're capable of.

There are cases where we grow and learn quickly, and come to the sad realization that the book we wrote is terrible and unfixable. That's not what I'm talking about-- becuase in that case, you *KNOW* that you need to move on. 

I'm talking about books we love and want agents/editors to love and can't figure out why they don't.
 
As long as there are agents left to query-- why would you quit? Worst case scenario is a pile of form rejections. Best cased scenario is you get an agent.


But there's something in the middle, too. It's called feedback. Anything personalized from an agent can help you understand your weaknesses.

Because you're working on another book, right? If an agent passes on project 1 becuase "the voice is too passive" or "the characterzation is weak," you've just learned something. You can dig into the first project and figure out if its somethign fixable. And after that, you can apply it to your next project.

And eventually you'll have another project ready to shop. Which is stronger than the first one. And that's when you know it's time to throw in the towel on book #1. But did you waste your time? No. Do you have regrets? No. You gave Book #1 the best possible chance-- and you learned from it.

And you should now be that much closer to a yes. Because instead of giving up at 20 rejections, you kept going and you used every opportunity to learn. 

Do I remember the names and projects of every query I've rejected? Nope. Do I remember most of the fulls I've read? Yes. When someone queries me and says, "You read X proejct of mine and had great feedback, and now I have Y project" does it help sway me to say yes?

Absolutely. If I liked something in Project 1 enough to spend time reading it, it means I thought they had talent. And the fact that they now have a second project means they're serious about writing and, hopefully, their writing has matured between 1 and 2. 

I think people get hung up on the idea that being rejected by agents somehow ruins a first impression, like they shouldn't have queried. But when your email is 1 of 50 queries I look at that day, I'm paying closer attention to the project and the writing than your name. If I reject you at the query stage, you can query me later on a different project and chances are I won't connect the two. 

But If I request it, you've moved up. Even if I reject it, the experience is a positive one. 

So I guess I am not sure where I"m going with this other than to say-- why waste the chance to jump in the deep end just becuase of a few rejections? Every query you send is an opportunity. Every novel that is trunked too early is a lost opportunity.
 


Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
katyupperman
Jun. 17th, 2010 05:02 pm (UTC)
Great post, and so nice to hear from someone who's been through the querying process herself! It's so hard to be be objective when it's time to step back and decide whether to retire a project from querying. You never want to give up too early, but at the same time, you don't want to beat a dead horse. "When you have something better to shop. When your skill has grown beyond what you're shopping. Then you give up." <--Great advice!
katrinangel
Jun. 17th, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
You make me want to go back to my third project and take another stab at it. I loved the concept (and so did my mom, lol), but the writing just wasn't where it needed to be.

Maybe it is now. Thanks for the way you always encourage writers. It is truly precious.

God Bless!
(Anonymous)
Jun. 17th, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC)
Great, now you have me thinking about completely scrapping my book and rewriting it (again) from scratch to see if I can come up with something better. Here is to better ideas and what may come next.
(Anonymous)
Jun. 17th, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
On When to give up...
Thanks Mandy! That was my question on #askagent, so it's good to have a fuller answer that the 140 words you can fit in a tweet. I'm feeling much better about the 8 rejections I've had so far now, because I know my book is good, and at this point, neither of my other books is as good....yet.

X K8
maggie_writes
Jun. 17th, 2010 07:14 pm (UTC)
Great advice! I really needed to hear this today.
akabins
Jun. 17th, 2010 07:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this, Mandy. Very inspirational. I think sometimes the hardest part is the process of viewing your work objectively, as well as giving yourself enough space from it to be able to make the changes that will most benefit the book (and realizing what these changes are). ;). Merci!
lbdiamond.wordpress.com
Jun. 17th, 2010 07:57 pm (UTC)
Nice post! I am working on this very thing right now. I have a MS I BELIEVE in and I want it to be the BEST possible thing I can make it. Hoping to query it soon, but I don't mind taking the extra time to make sure it's really ready. That's where the feedback from betas and tips from agents come in. Without 'em, I wouldn't have known any better, LOL!
ext_140782
Jun. 17th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
Besides, Elana Johnson queried approximately 180 agents before she found one who loved her ms. And that wonderful agent sold it to a major publisher. If Elana had given up after 50 or 100 or 150 queries, I wouldn't get to read the book I'm dying to get my hands on. :D
(Anonymous)
Jun. 17th, 2010 10:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you, this post makes me feel better about my stack of rejections! I completely rewrote a ms based on an agent's one small suggestion and even though she still rejected it (hah), I felt better because I knew I had a stronger ms.
(Anonymous)
Jun. 18th, 2010 12:04 am (UTC)
Wow
Thanks for the amazing post! You've just inspired me to keep on keeping on.

Many thanks!

~Elaine
areteus
Jun. 18th, 2010 07:08 am (UTC)
I always think that if a piece is rejected then it is at least worth re-reading it yourself to see if you can see what the agent/publisher saw what was wrong with it yourself (if you get a personal response) and/or seeing for yourself how you might fix it. That way, every rejection improves the work. Sometimes, the smallest and apparently insignifacnt changes can have a massive effect on reception.

One thing that I think also needs to be said on this issue is that a form rejection is a good time to rustle up some new beta readers and critters - send it to a writing group or whatever - because a fresh set of eyes may spot whatever is causing it to be rejected.

Excellent post.
ext_231225
Jun. 18th, 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
When You Lose the Passion Or You Yourself Can Do No More
I would add when you lose the passion for your work, it's time to move on. I have two novels that I would love to see picked up. My YA is currently being edited. This is the one I can take no further myself. I have done all I can. But my hands are tied on this one. I'm at the mercy of my editor before I can continue with it. The former one (women's fiction) is one I've reworked countless times. But now, I'm on to my next YA project where my passion now lies. It's not with the other two. I spend all my spare time writing my next project rather than querying my former two which I've finally concluded it okay. It's okay to put something down for a bit and return to it later with fresh eyes. What makes your heart sing is where you should go, not what you think you should be doing (i.e. finding an agent to get on the road to being published). Nor should you feel guilty about it either. Life is short. Spend your time wisely. Follow your passion.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 8th, 2010 04:11 am (UTC)
When to give up -- NEVER!
Mandy, fab post! Thanks for letting me know it was here on the #askagent. Love your advice to:
shop the best damn book you're capable of!
Will do!
B Jas
www.restlesswriters.ca
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
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